San Antonio welcomed the team it all started against, Seattle Sounders 2, to Toyota Field on Saturday night and bid them farewell with a similar result as on their first encounter. While not entirely convincing, San Antonio FC got a vital result for its playoff chances as it managed a 1-0 win over the Sounders.
“Whenever you have a bit less rest than the opposition it’s a test of character of the players,” San Antonio FC Head Coach Darren Powell said of his team getting six points in one week. “Overall, we got a clean sheet and were able to hold on to that tonight, and that put us in a position to win the match.”
A nice play by Seattle forward Victor Mansaray created the first chance of the match when the Sounders snuck through the offside trap. As Mansaray went wide left, Seattle midfielder Zach Mathers made a good diagonal run to the box to receive the ball, but his shot went wide.
San Antonio FC’s first chance came in the 10th minute when midfielder Rafael Castillo took advantage of a poor pass. He stole the ball just inside his half, and quickly spotted the Sounders keeper off his line, allowing him to send a low ball toward the open net but it went wide, nonetheless giving Seattle an early warning.
San Antonio fans were baying for a penalty in the 16th minute when midfielder Carlos Alvarez went down. But the referee correctly waved play on after Alvarez seemed to have had his arm around his defender more than the other way around.
The hosts kept pushing and went close again in the 17th minute when the ball was played through to Alvarez who shot right at the keeper. Less than one minute later it was San Antonio forward Franck Tayou who was played through: he used his speed to beat the defenders and got in one-on-one with the keeper but pulled his shot across the face and slightly wide.
A free-kick gave Alvarez yet another chance in the 22nd minute after some strong work from Castillo created the chance. Both players stood over the ball and after Castillo ran over the ball, Alvarez sent in a curling strike which beat the keeper but went just wide of goal.
Two corners led to a strong opportunity for San Antonio FC in the 27th minute after the ball bounced around in the box. That allowed Tayou to turn in the box and hit a shot which Sounders keeper Charlie Lyon was able to gather at the second time of asking.
A strong run from San Antonio FC midfielder Cesar Elizondo nearly resulted in a goal, if not for some strong goalkeeping. A long ball, aided by the wind, bounced in front of Elizondo, who was beat to the ball by a quick Lyon, who just pushed it clear.
Seattle attempted to slow down the match, seemingly holding on for a road point. Despite having opportunities to send the ball into the box the players consistently chose to pass the ball around on the wing, leaving San Antonio FC goalkeeper Matt Cardone with little to do.
With plenty of players already on the San Antonio FC injury list – among them goalkeeper Josh Ford and forward Shawn Chin – there was an unwanted substitution in the 43rd minute. Elizondo went down after defending and was unable to continue, adding to the worries over the growing treatment list at Toyota Field.
Immediately after the nil-nil halftime whistle, lightning around the stadium caused a thirty minute delay which changed the two sides’ half-time procedure.
“We had a chance to get our legs up a little bit and get some stretches in,” said Tayou about the longer break. “The message was the same, we wanted to put our feet up but we had to stay fresh.”
Despite the weather delay, San Antonio FC was able to open scoring just five minutes in to the second half. A perfect through-ball saw San Antonio FC midfielder Rafael Castillo beat the offside trap in the 51st minute.
Some strong work from Tayou should have seen San Antonio FC double their lead, after he made a run down the right and squared into the box. The ball went to San Antonio forward Manolo Sanchez, who had just come on the pitch as a substitute, but Lyon got down well and made the save.
“I really like being able to do multiple things,” said Tayou after the match. “I can turn well and shoot like that chance, but what the team usually needs is someone who can hold the ball up and that’s what I do.”
Immediately countering, Seattle very nearly scored what would have been a stunning equalizer when Cardone was caught off his line. It was an audacious attempt at a chip, from well out, which had Cardone scrambling back, but he got back and palmed the ball away for San Antonio FC to clear.
“Today I thought he (Cardone) played the best he’s played in a San Antonio shirt,” said Powell. “That save was of a different class, it will make the highlight reel. That was a very, very good save and at a very important moment in the game, too.”
With 20 minutes to play another free-kick nearly doubled San Antonio’s lead, as Castillo lined it up just outside the box. Castillo curled his effort around the wall, but the ball didn’t come back enough and went into the side netting.
In the 84th minute Seattle Sounders went close to finding an equalizer after a strong run from Tolo down the left. Tolo’s cross was perfect for a header from Seattle forward Irvin Parra but he sent his effort over the bar.
In stoppage time, San Antonio made one last attempt at doubling the lead when forward Jason Johnson played the ball across the face for Castillo. Castillo got around the keeper and shot with a tight angle but Seattle midfielder Jordan Schweitzer was on the line and cleared it. That clearance did little to change things as San Antonio still managed to claim all three points in the 1-0 win.
San Antonio FC moved up six spots into eighth place in the Western Conference standings, currently poising the team for the playoffs. The players will travel to Missouri for their next two games – the first against Saint Louis FC on Aug. 27 and the second against Swope Park Rangers in Kansas City on Aug. 31 – before returning to Toyota Field on Sept. 4
Top image: San Antonio FC Midfielder Rafael Castillo chases the ball against Seattle Sounders 2. Photo by Darren Abate for USL.